In Florida, Disorderly Intoxication is a criminal offense that is classified as a
second degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to sixty days in jail. Although commonly
confused with disorderly conduct or breach of peace, Disorderly Intoxication is a
distinct offense under Florida law. If you have been accused of Disorderly Intoxication
in Jacksonville, Duval County, Clay County, or Nassau County Florida, contact our
Jacksonville Criminal Attorney for a free consultation. Disorderly intoxication is
a highly defendable charge, and you should consult with an experienced criminal defense
attorney prior to making a decision in your case.
What is Disorderly Intoxication in Florida?
Section 856.011, Florida Statutes, provides that “No person in the State [of Florida]
shall be intoxicated and endanger the safety of another person or property, and no
person in the State shall be intoxicated or drink any alcoholic beverage in a public
place or in any public conveyance and cause a public disturbance.” Thus, under the
statute, disorderly intoxication occurs in one of two scenarios:
Where an accused is intoxicated and he or she endangers the safety of persons or
Where an accused is intoxicated or drinks in a public place and causes a public disturbance.
For purposes of Florida’s disorderly intoxication statute, “intoxication” means more
than merely being under the influence of an alcoholic beverage. Intoxication in Florida
means that the accused was so affected by the alcoholic beverage as to have lost
or been deprived of the normal control of either his/her body or his/her mental faculties,
or both. Intoxication is synonymous with “drunk.”
Where an accused admits to a police officer or to bystanders that he or she drank
an alcoholic beverage, this is not, by itself, sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable
doubt that the accused was under the influence to the extent that he or she was “intoxicated.”
However, the admission may be taken into account with other evidence that may be
presented in the case.
As discussed above, Disorderly Intoxication in Florida also requires that the accused’s
conduct take place within a “public place.” Florida law defines a “public place”
as any location where the general public has a right to be. Thus, where the conduct
of the accused occurs on his or her front porch or other private property, a conviction
will not stand. See Royster v. State, 643 So. 2d 61 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994).
Moreover, there can be no conviction for Disorderly Intoxication unless the prosecution
succeeds in proving that the accused’s conduct in some way posed a danger to public
safety. In Jernigan v. State, 566 So. 2d 39 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990), a police dispatcher,
went to the police station while intoxicated and distraught over a relationship with
a female dispatcher. He was persuaded to leave, and then came back to the station,
where he was arrested and charged with disorderly intoxication. At trial, the accused
brought a motion for judgment of acquittal on grounds that the State failed to present
evidence of an endangerment to public safety. The trial court denied the motion.
On these facts, the First District Court of Appeal of Florida reversed, holding that,
in prosecutions for disorderly intoxication, the State must prove not only that a
person is intoxicated but that the public safety is endangered. The Court made no
distinction between charges involving the consumption of beverages and charges where
the defendant was merely intoxicated.
Is Freedom of Speech a Defense to Disorderly Intoxication in Florida?
In appropriate cases, yes. Along with disorderly conduct, disorderly intoxication
is a type of offense where the First Amendment’s protection for freedom of speech
becomes an issue. Generally speaking, if the intoxication that forms the basis of
the charge is speech (verbal, written, or other expressive conduct), and if such
conduct falls within a category of “protected speech,” then the First Amendment will
preclude a conviction for disorderly intoxication (and disorderly conduct). However,
when protected speech is accompanied by conduct which is not constitutionally protected
and which is properly defined as criminal, then a conviction for disorderly intoxication
will stand, even if aspects of the incident involve freedom of speech.
For additional information on the First Amendment and its application in the context
of public order crimes, our First Amendment Motion to Dismiss, filed in the course
of a recent disorderly intoxication case handled by our law firm.
Charged with Disorderly Intoxication in Florida? Hire an Attorney.
There are innumerable defenses available to contest a charge of disorderly intoxication
in Jacksonville, FL. If you have been arrested or accused of this offense, you should
consult with an experienced Jacksonville disorderly intoxication defense attorney
to discuss your legal options. The attorneys at Hussein & Webber, PL have extensive
experience in handling these types of cases and will fight on your behalf to challenge
the State’s allegations and avoid a conviction. Call our Jacksonville Criminal Attorney
today for a free consultation.